Ashley Evans is a friend of Upper Hand and we are so fortunate that she spent some time sharing her wisdom and expertise with us. Enjoy her first guest-blog about Recovery Nutrition.
My name is Ashley Evans, RDN and I write a health living blog over at www.ashleyharperevans.com. I am a graduate of the Mayo Clinic, a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, and lifestyle athlete myself. Today I am excited to share with you today a topic that certainly hits home for me and I'm sure it will with you as well.
As the wife of a former professional athlete, dietitian, weight lifter, distance runner, HITT fanatic, and yogi myself, recovery nutrition is more important to me than many other nutrition based concepts. Being an athlete yourself, regardless what level, you too should be concerned with recovery nutrition.
As I mentioned, my husband was a former professional athlete – a baseball pitcher to be exact. Unfortunately, it was a shoulder injury that ultimately ended his career and what I am about to share with you is the information he wishes he had known a few years back, while still on the mound and in uniform. Let's first discuss what happens when we exercise, train, workout, perform, compete, etc… As we put our bodies through these vigorous workouts, we're breaking down our muscle tissue - making tiny tears and rips throughout each muscle fiber. At this point, our body is in a catabolic, or breaking down, state. We’re breaking down our muscles. If we don't replenish and refuel our bodies following this activity through nutrition, our muscles have no way of repairing, refueling or building up. Over time, the body and muscle will not be able to sustain itself and that is when we see injury. We want to return our bodies to an anabolic, or building, state, in order to see performance gains. Just like 1 + 1 = 2:
we breakdown through exercise + build up through nutrition = improved performance.
Easy enough, right? While playing, my husband only knew one of the components of recovery nutrition: he knew that his body needed protein at that’s all he gave it. Yes, his body needed protein, but even more, it needed carbohydrates to replenish and refuel the damage that was going on inside. As a starting pitcher, over time, over use and under recovery left him with only memories of his playing days.
Recovery nutrition. What is it? The most important meal for an athlete is the meal following each workout, game, outing, etc. A proper post-workout meal will:
- help the muscles repair
- it will help fight off excessive inflammation
- it will rehydrate the body
- it will also replenish the glycogen stores (the carbohydrates stores in our muscles which provide a quick source of energy during performance)
When our glycogen stores get low enough, our body has to revert to burn fat as energy which cause us to feel more sluggish and tired - certainly not the way we want to feel when training or competing.
So what do you need? Before you think you've heard this before and you swear you've got your protein shake in your bag and it’s ready to go, I want you to reconsider:
you're body needs much more than just protein post-workout. While protein will help the body repair the muscle tears as well as build new muscle tissue, it will not replenish the glycogen stores which will provide you body the fuel to power your next workout, game, event, etc. That's the job of carbohydrates. You need protein plus carbohydrates after every workout/game/etc. And if your engaging in a long outing or workout, such as the starting pitcher, football game, etc., it's not bad idea to take a few sips of a carbohydrate containing sports drink throughout your outing to keep replenishing your carbohydrate stores. Actually, research even supports that as our glycogen stores become depleted, athletic performance decreases as well. Don’t let that happen to you.
How much and how often? As quickly as possible following a workout, preferably within 15-30 minutes but no longer than 90 minutes after. Research suggests that it is necessary to refuel your body with approximately 20-30 grams of protein and 60-120 (at minimum) grams of carbohydrates. You are aiming for a 4:1 or 3:1 ratio of carbohydrates to protein, depending on which ratio works best for you. It's also important to make up for any fluid and electrolytes lost through sweat depending on how much sweat during the event. Water will make up for the fluid loss but consuming salt and potassium through your recovery meal or through a sports drink will make up for the electrolytes lost. The easiest way to track your fluid needs is (if possible) to weigh yourself before your event and then again after and replace however many ounces you lost (remember one pound equals 16 ounces) with fluids.
So what should you eat following a workout? Here are a few examples of proper recovery nutrition meals: Protein shake + carbohydrate recovery formula Egg Whites + a white bagel or English muffin Low-fat/Fat-free Greek yogurt + granola + banana/berries Smoothie (Protein powder + greens + berries + banana + water + ice) Nutrition/energy bar (check the label for adequate carbohydrate: protein) Chocolate milk Plant-based protein shake + dates (for my vegan athletes, like myself) So to wrap this up, if you are an athlete you need to learn to love carbohydrates if you want your sport to love you back! And remember, your body recovers at night: recovery properly with nutrition and get enough sleep to keep your body running like a well-oiled machine. Cheers to a successful season with this post-workout recovery smoothie recipe!